Agers as Enhancers?

To enhance: augment, boost, enrich, add to

After I wrote the EWA posting on enhancers who were the “wind beneath my wings” (8/29/19), it occurred to me that my enhancers were leading very busy lives. Even so, they were able to augment, boost and enrich my life in significant ways. Encounters with enhancers were positive and intriguing. I began to think about the reality that perhaps agers might be in a very good position to become effective enhancers.

We agers have time to think and reflect upon ourselves and others. Time to see and think about qualities and talents in others to which we respond. Seeing and responding to their capacities and potential may augment, boost and enrich their lives.

I thought about what enhancers have given me and how they’ve done it. They:

noticed specific qualities/capacities in me that I hadn’t seen, acknowledged or used; they responded to them in both behavior and words. At times they’ve identified specific capabilities and ideas in ways I hadn’t considered

showed genuine pleasure in my company.

listened, asked questions, posed ideas that conveyed genuine interest and added to those I’d offered.

Now these things I could do, one way or another.

So I began to ponder more widely on how we agers, each with our own attitudes and capacities, might softly enhance others. We wouldn’t need to be perfect, but we could try, starting in little, safe ways.

My lifetime best friend is almost two years older than me. Her ARCs have taken much from her. Still, she manages to enhance care givers and visitors alike. Care givers as well as family reportedly leave her bedside feeling better than when they came. I don’t know how she does it, but it’s an example that it can be done, even with very limited capacities. It’s led me to think about ways to communicate appreciation of and pleasure in qualities in others, other than just telling them. Eye contact, facial expression, body language, touch where appropriate come to mind. But it all starts with an attitude of genuinely caring, noticing and appreciating specifics in another person.

Another outcome enhancers produced in me is incentive. Many times, even in my advanced years, I’ve felt the need to “live up” to qualities or potential others believed in and shared with me. I’ve had two situations in which encounters resulted in visible incentivizing

During an intake appointment with a physician, I was impressed with a specific question he asked while he was washing his hands that changed my patient-doctor relationship with him in a meaningful way. He asked what I wanted from this first meeting. That immediately changed my participation from cooperation to collaboration in this session and subsequently.   In my next visit I told him how what he’d said had made such a difference. Apparently he hadn’t been aware of its impact and seemed pleased to learn of it, said he’d use it more purposefully .

Remembering his reaction, I decided to give specific feedback to a physical therapist who had: been welcoming of data from me on specific ARCs that were affecting my participation, and created a remarkably useful form to keep track of expectations and activity steps (despite my short term memory ARCs). After giving him this feedback the same collaborative relationship I had with the physician evolved.

As recipients of others’ care and attention, we agers have multiple opportunities to give feedback to care providers when something fosters engagement (and also when it deters it).

As I have thought about my role as enhancer I have (as usual), been my own lab rat. I notice myself enjoying

becoming more aware of qualities and behaviors in others that resonate with me

desiring to respond to them in ways that reflect my appreciation/respect/engagement

aware of my body language, facial expression, eye contact and touch to communicate in appropriate natural ways.

Whether I am a ‘wind beneath the wings’ of others, I may not know—nor does it matter. It does however seem that it may a way for agers to give as well as receive, even as our capacities become more limited and dependencies grow. And for me to remain green and growing.

Fat Clustered in One’s Middle and Lost in Extremities – Winter Becomes a Different Experience

Reality and research agree that the total amount of fat and its regional distribution changes with age.   Total weight tends to increase as we continue to eat the way we always have, even as our basal metabolic rate for burning calories drops sharply and our activities decrease.

These fat increases relocate themselves to the abdominal area. But at the same time that we agers gain visceral fat, there are decreases in the insulating subcutaneous fat in our arms and legs. The non-scientific fat-in-the-middle explanation, as I’ve heard it, is that it’s there to keep one’s vital organs warm in the winter. Well that sounds as logical an explanation as any.


During recent decades I’ve very slowly lost weight, probably due to loss of muscle mass plus planning my meals to follow the sharp downward curve in my ability to burn calories (basal metabolic rate), and my decreasing activity. I was determined not to think of the needed changes in my way of eating as “dieting”. That felt too negative. And besides, this low metabolism and activity are ongoing.   Was I going to diet for the rest of my life?   I enjoy eating and there’s no way I was going to give up that pleasure. So, I just weigh in every morning and that keeps me shopping, cooking and eating reasonably for that day. I choose foods I like and prepare them in ways that still keep me looking forward to enjoyable meals. The result has been that my weight has come back down to what it was in my late 20’s, but my shape is no way what it was then. Instead my middle is disgustingly “thick” while my limbs have become scrawnier by the year. It’s a sort of a fat scarecrow look. Vanity, vanity!


Strangely enough, I’ve come to think that Mother Nature is at least partly wise. So even as I am disgusted by the fat in my middle, I’m glad it’s keeping my ancient vital organs warm enough that they function as well as they can. But why, I wonder, was it necessary to take away the insulating fat in my arms and legs? After all, they’re vital too! I guess they just carry on, hot or cold.

November is here!   My arms, legs and especially hands and feet, minus their fat layers (and with changed circulation I expect), are predictably and uncomfortably cool to downright cold. My feet feel like ice cubes, and once in bed, I’d prefer to disown them. And they take forever to warm up. Spring and summer seem an eternity away.

The winter wardrobe is back in use with its multiple layering of tops and heavier pants, socks and slippers/shoes. (I don’t go outside much these days.) Fleece and down are “in”. The thermostat is set higher. I’ve moved my recliner inches closer to a gas fireplace that has become the love of my life (and my cat’s too). And my quilts have been changed to the winter version. The electrically heated mattress pad is turned on so the bed is warm when I retire. Still I often feel cool.

But here I am complaining when I have so much that enables me stay warm. I know that in our city we have hundreds who don’t have a predictably warm place to live nor warm clothing and bedding, and even warm food. Time to think about passing along extra bedding and clothes as well as a contribution to an organization whose purpose and business is in helping these folks stay warm and fed. My dad was sponsored and helped by the Salvation Army when he left Sweden and landed with just the clothes on his back on Ellis Island and moved on up to New England to start his new life. That will be my choice.

ARCed Balance is More Multidimensional Than I Thought


Through most of my life my idea of balance was a general notion of being able to be upright and steady. In a physiology course I learned that the organ that enabled balance was a complex vestibular body located in the inner ear. The other day, a physical therapist taught me that it is three pronged: vestibular, vision and proprioception.   ARCs (age related changes) affecting balance tended to begin in one’s 40’s. And through it all balance seemed to me to be a generic, unitary function—being securely upright.

As the balance ARC crept silently into my life, I became increasingly aware of reaching out to put my hand on a solid surface to “steady myself”. But if I thought about it at all, it still was about uprightness and steadiness and found myself being curious about how it would manifest itself as the ARC progressed.

Well, that curiosity is now being satisfied. And (as with so many other realities of aging), it brought its surprises. It proved to be not just one entity. No, it was far more complex than that. It manifested itself in separate capacities which impacted specific daily activities linked to high risk locales. Different adaptive strategies were needed for each.

Six risk activities appeared to be altered by my Balance ARC, turning, centering, bending, dealing with darkness instability when moving about and now, even when standing.

Turning: when my head and body/feet faced in different directions and the difference was greater than 90° “tippiness” and physiological “near-fall“ sensations (an instant nasty gut reaction without the subsequent fall). The highest risk area proved to be my kitchen with work areas on all four sides. Adaptation: Say/think “Nose&Toes!” to remind me to keep face and feet pointing in the same direction. (blog 11/16/17) To move objects about, slide them on nearby/adjoining surfaces. With 180° or greater turns, find intermittent surfaces to allow for reorienting one’s feet.

Centering was essential when moving from sitting to standing, after turning, when picking up or carrying items, or being hugged. (9/5/18) Adaptations: Say/think/do “Center yourself!” before engaging in the affecting behavior. Brace the body before lifting an object large/heavy enough to pull one off-center. Hold objects close to the body when moving. Alert huggers to the risks of pulling one off center or brace part of the body against something solid before hugs. Most recently, even merely standing triggers teetering. Now that’s really scary for the increasing risks it portends.

Bending:  during any activity below waist level, e.g. bed making, picking up/dealing with objects on low shelves or the floor. Adaptations: Brace one hand or body part against a solid object during the activity (e.g. lower legs resting against mattress in bed making, sit on walker to deal with things on lower shelves or picking up objects from the floor). Last resort: ask someone else to do the job.

Dealing with darkness: this challenge to balance occurs most for me in the living room where evenings are spent. Adaptation: Get up and turn on the wall switch before turning off the lamp. Turn on/off lights upon entering/leaving a room. Turn on night lights before retiring. Keep a working flashlight on the bedside stand in case of a blackout.

Needing hand contact with my walker or body contact with a solid surface in order to feel secure. Riskiest when getting up during the night and when moving about open space in the kitchen. Adaptation: Keep the walker within arm’s reach at all times. When both hands are needed for an activity, lean lower body on available solid objects (e.g. counters). Use a tray on the walker seat to transport objects about in open spaces. (4/26/18)

Being constantly mindful of my balance when I’m just standing still, even in the midst of everything or anything else, is a new reality that’s demanding adaptation. Hopefully an upcoming new physical therapy regimen will at least slow this ARC, perhaps even reverse it a bit.